Whether our families came to America seeking refuge from political turmoil abroad or simply pursuing better economic opportunities in the States, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are part of the vibrant fabric that constitutes the U.S., and our contributions to this nation are part of what make it so great. As a community, it is important for us to remember that, from working in businesses to serving in hospitals, from running for political offices to teaching in schools, we are a vital part of this nation.
Today, Asian Americans comprise approximately 5.8 percent of the total US population. While this number may seem minute, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is the fastest growing racial group in the country, increasing roughly four times as rapidly as the total US population and projected to double to over 47 million by 2060. Yet despite this rising presence, only 14 percent of Asian Americans describe themselves as “American,” with 62 percent instead identifying with their family’s country of origin and 53 percent saying that they are atypical Americans.
These statistics are concerning, and perhaps add meaning to a significant problem facing the Asian American community, which is low voter turnout. In the 2012 presidential and congressional elections, only 47.3 percent of eligible Asian Americans voted, well below the turnout rate of other racial groups. While issues of voter apathy and language accessibility likely contribute to this low voter turnout rate, perhaps the bigger issue with which Asian Americans grapple is a general disconnect from American politics and a lack of identity as Americans.
However, given the xenophobic rhetoric of the current election, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders should feel far from distant. In fact, we have been placed at the forefront of this election, with immigration and racial divides being highly contested policy issues between the current presidential candidates.
With Election Day today, we can no longer afford to remain silent. Given the high stakes of this election for our community, it is imperative that we exercise our right to vote and that we encourage our friends and family to do the same. We must remember that we are the United States of America – our vote matters, and it is important that our voices be heard.